Covid infections now surging in rural African areas

Coronavirus cases are surging in rural areas of Africa as the continent faces its third wave of the virus.

Places once seen as safe havens from Covid-19 have seen a spike in cases amid the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant in the continent.

The World Health Organisation’s regional office for Africa has said the pandemic is “resurging” in 12 of the continent’s countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda.

Last week, the WHO’s regional director for Africa said the third Covid wave was “picking up speed, spreading faster, hitting harder”.

Rural areas have experienced a rise in cases during this third wave, after previously witnessing cities get hit the hardest by the virus.

While their healthcare facilities are poorly staffed and lack the resources to handle the spike in infections, hospitals in cities are under strain as they are treating an increasing number of people coming from the countryside.

Zimbabwe’s rural village of Zvimba has yet to record a major spike in infections but it sits in a province that is the current epicentre of the virus.

Resident Pelagia Bvukura said: “It is now on our doorsteps. It’s scary. We don’t know how to protect ourselves. We have never dealt with such a problem before,” she said.

She said Covid-19 had always been a “city disease”, affecting those in the capital, Harare, or other distant and big towns.

Meanwhile, Edward Simiyu, Uganda country director of the charity group Mercy Corps, said earlier this month: “We are starting to see an upward trend in the rural and marginalised areas,” said

In Mozambique’s remote Tete province, a hotbed of infections where the delta variant was recorded, President Filipe Nyusi expressed concern.

“We don’t have many beds. We don’t have many health staff in Tete either,” he said.

Last week, Matshidiso Moeti from WHO said there were “rapidy rising” cases and “increasing reports of serious illness” across Africa.

“The latest surge threatens to be Africa’s worst yet,” she added.

The WHO’s regional director for Africa urged governments to “make sure all at-risk communities have access to basic prevention tools”, including face masks.

“Africa urgently needs more vaccines. We need a sprint, not a saunter, to rapidly protecting the biggest risk,” Ms Moeti said.

WHO Africa has said the flouting of public health measures, increased social interaction and new variants were behind the new surge in cases across the continent.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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